Amazon announced Friday that its Middletown facility will be one of six fulfillment centers in the nation host public tours, starting May 6.
Have you ever wondered what goes on in an Amazon Fulfillment Center?
You’ll soon be able to find out by visiting the online retail giant’s 18-month-old distribution center in Middletown.
Amazon announced Friday that the 1-million-square-foot facility on Merrimac Avenue is one of six fulfillment centers in the nation that will begin hosting public tours, starting May 6.
“We’re received so many requests for tours over the years that we decided it’s something we should do so our customers can see firsthand what happens after they place their online order,” said company spokeswoman Rebecca Passo. “We identified fulfillment centers strategically located throughout the United States that could showcase the technology we have in place and Middletown seemed like a great location for that reason.”
The Middletown Fulfillment Center will be the only Amazon facility open to public tours in the Northeast. Other locations opening for tours will include Phoenix, Ariz., San Bernadino, Calif., Jeffersonville, Ind., Chattanooga, Tenn. and Chester, Va.
Amazon on Thursday added a new page to their website, www.amazon.com/fctours, where the public can register to take one of two tours that will be scheduled at each site on both the first and third Tuesdays of the month.
At the Middletown facility, tours will be held at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each of those days.
“The tour groups will be limited to about 30 people for maximum visibility, although we’ll also be offering special availabilities for larger groups such as school field trips, Boys & Girls Clubs and other organizations who want to visit Amazon,” Passo said. “Sign-ups will be on a first-come, first-serve basis and we’re expecting to see a lot of excited people once we begin.”
Friday’s announcement marks the first time the 20-year-old cyber retailer has opened its fulfillment centers to the public on a regulary-scheduled basis.
The Middletown location, for instance, is believed to have allowed only small tours of select individuals during its one-year anniversary celebration last October.
The $15 million facility, one of two Amazon operates in Delaware, currently employs more than 1,600 people, making it the single-largest employer in Middletown.
Last winter, the company added another 3,500 temporary seasonal employees, making its total workforce in Middletown roughly equal in size to all of New Castle, at least until the end of December.
The fulfillment center in Middletown also attracted national attention December when 30 equipment maintenance and repair technicians became the first employee group in the company’s history to successfully file a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board.
That move was reportedly prompted by high turnover among managers at the Middletown facility, which led the workers to seek union support in the hopes of establishing clearly-defined guidelines for seniority, promotion and vacation, as well as the establishment of an effective safety committee, according a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), which sought to represent the employees.
Yet when it came time for the Amazon workers to formally vote on forming a collective bargaining unit represented by the IAMAW, 21 of the employees voted against unionizing.
Passo said today that Amazon’s decision to include the Middletown facility in the list of fulfillment centers that will be offering public tours is “not at all related” to the unionization effort there four months ago.
Middletown Mayor Kenneth Branner said he is thrilled Amazon has decided to open its doors to the community.
“If I had a dollar for every time I've been asked, ‘Can you get me in there for a tour,'” he said. “Now they will be able to see for themselves the phenomenal processes Amazon has put into place. It really is something to see.”